Heaven, Not Up There, But Right Here

by | Jan 15, 2024

The Tower of Babel is mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 11:1-9). The prideful ancient Babylonians wanted to build a mighty city and a tower with its top in the heavens. The work remained incomplete after they were cursed to speak different languages. As they could no longer understand one another, the people were dispersed over the face of the earth, leaving behind the incomplete tower. Since then, language has remained a significant barrier to the progress of mankind. The powerful communicated in a language not open to the general people. Even today, doctors use Latin and Greek in their practice.

In the seventeenth century, the French philosopher René Descartes spoke about a universal language using symbols and logic. The German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz tried to use numbers as a universal language for communication rather than letters and words. As computers arrived, where the only language was 0 and 1, language was deciphered as a program that operated independently following a specific set of instructions. To achieve tasks, new languages such as C, Pascal, and Fortran emerged to write machine instructions. As we enter 2024, JavaScript and Python are two of the most popular languages in the computer world. 

It did not take long for computers to pick up the rules of language used for expression by people – English, French, Hindi, etc. But different languages followed different rules. To the great surprise and satisfaction of Indians, the rules of Panini, who lived in 600 BCE in the Gandhar region of ancient India, were found universal. Words are crafted from sounds that carry emotions and acoustic envelopes in a few thousand instructions. Panini revolutionized this by linearly arranging the alphabet in sets according to their vocal properties.

Separating the databases (alphabets) from the algorithms (vocal sets) made it possible to understand a language from the root sounds rather than the noun roots, the verb roots, the gender rules for nouns, and so on. The sound blobs are bucketed into roots. There are immutables, non-overlapping suffixes, prefixes and infixes fixed on the 2000 root sounds. “Ra-ja” can be “ra-jah”, “ra-ya”, and “ra-cha”, for example. Remove labels and look for the substance. Voice and emotions are at the root of language – not words. 

Saraswati is the goddess of Vani (speech); she holds a Veena in her hands. By capturing the music, one can feel the divine! No wonder American musician and songwriter Robert Johnson (1911-1938) famously said that Sanskrit has 96 words for love; ancient Persian has 80, Greek has three, and English has only one. This indicates the scarcity of awareness or emphasis that we give to that tremendously important realm of feeling. Music transcends all this and conveys wholesome love as it is. 

Computer scientists quickly applied the separation of algorithms from databases into metalanguage – declarations, lists of lists, classes and inheritance, superimposition, overrides, global context, and scope resolution of methods. So, it is simple: I type a text and, in almost no time, get its translation on the screen. How? Artificial neural networks learn to recognize patterns by processing large amounts of data. AI knows the rest of the sentence when I start keying in the first few words. As soon as I write a sentence, AI understands the context. And after a few sentences are written, the entire message is captured. The rest is like music. 

One of the most sensible things that has happened in India is Bhashini, India’s Artificial Intelligence (AI)-led language translation platform. It seeks to enable easy access to the internet and digital services in Indian languages, including voice-based access, and help create content in Indian languages. The contribution can be made in four ways — Suno India, Likho India, Bolo India and Dekho India – hearing, writing, speaking and seeing. India is now creating an ever-evolving repository of data, training and benchmarking datasets, open models, tools and technologies. I know two brilliant engineers, Kiran Raju and Chandrasekhar Thota, working in AI, and learned the latest in the field from them. And, of course, my son Amol has been there, unraveling the new world to me as it unfolds. 

Kiran studied computer science at Purdue University and later, at Carnegie Mellon University. He founded Grene Robotics (GR) in India, a technology R&D company inspired by nature’s efficient and intelligent design, in 2009. Cosmic intelligence is the supreme intelligence, and the best of engineering exists in nature. The pursuit is to decipher and apply it on purpose. Kiran is developing digital twins wherein your machines, businesses, and even the body are digitally maintained as an AI system so that what is going on wrong can be captured and corrected even before it happens. The immense insurance industry, trillions of dollars worldwide, has been groping in the dark. But with the advent of AI, risks will be foreseen, adjusted, and even mitigated. 

 Chandrasekhar is Vice President and Head of Engineering at Google in Silicon Valley. His passion is Maps. He has built layers of intelligence upon locations by merely looking at them. So, when you arrive in a particular area, it is not simply to know where the restaurant is, but where hot South Indian food is available and on happy hour rates. He has been doing this work that people enjoy on their mobile phones, and businesses no longer need to be at prime locations. They can be located even in the interiors, saving operational costs and transferring the cost advantage to customers. Mapping is now entering the healthcare industry. What a patient needs will be linked to the best service, and like you don’t go to a “five-star hotel” when hungry, you can engage the best provider directly.  

At the root of all these developments is understanding the grammar that drives a language — knowing the seed, not by plucking the fruit and cutting it open, but by the tree’s seed before it is sown in the soil. The Tower of Babel was a symbol of arrogance, denying the reality of the mortal world; AI would end all arrogance and the ignorance that it entails. The point is no more that you don’t know about something; the fact is, what you will do about it – who are you at the end of the day? The era of deception, falsehood, and pretensions will end soon. After dawn breaks out, even the brightest stars are seen no more. Once the language barrier is overcome, knowledge will flow like water and air – without boundaries, channels and user charges. The idea of AI is not to reach heaven up there. It is about creating heaven right here. 

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17 Comments

  1. Very good insight into the significance of the language, Prof Tiwariji !

    Your optimism about the benefit of AI for greater good is laudable !!

  2. The AI era has already begun, and denying the fact is like an ostrich burying its head in the sands. Indiа accounts for 17.7% оf the world’s рорulаtiоn. All Indians dо nоt have ассеss to health-care facilities for various reasons – shоrtаge оf qualified dосtоrs, inаdequаte infrаstruсture, аnd so on. AI is emerging as a big leveller. Besides, the primary focus of the healthcare industry as a whole is gathering precise and pertinent data about patients and those who enter treatment. AI is an excellent fit for the healthcare industry’s wealth of data. AI can lead to better care outcomes and improve the productivity and efficiency of care delivery. The day-to-day life of healthcare practitioners is eased up as they are now spending more time looking after patients. Soon, the problem will be how to utilize the free time.

  3. I have been working in healthcare IT for several years. The transformation can’t be missed. A level of technology has been reached that even if you don’t go to the doctor, AI can diagnose diseases based on symptoms by reading data from a fitness band or a person’s medical history, analysing the pattern, and suggesting appropriate meditation, which can be ordered easily through cell phones.

    AI is easily expandable, adaptable, and applied to many business processes. We may start to understand the possible use of the technology when we remember that AI is only a computer program. Due to its ability to provide intelligence to jobs that previously lacked it, AI is being used on a huge scale.

    Of course, one must eliminate bad habits, lifestyles and acts. AI provides an early alarm for diseases and ailments manifesting. CKM syndrome is one such example. A complex disorder made up of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. These four connected conditions share risk factors and can lead to one another. AI can see it coming before settling in.

  4. Sir, read this poem on the Internet:

    Though artificial but genuine,
    Though not a human but has a brain,
    Though no emotions teach how to emote,
    Though not eating, but taught how to cook,
    Though not writing but teaching how to write,
    Though not studying yet, it gives tips for studying,
    Though no diploma but a master’s in all degrees,
    The master of all, but sometimes meet trouble,
    Like humans, it feels tiresome,
    Just unplug and open it once more,
    your artificial gadget,
    Never complain, even being called a ‘Computer’.

  5. This is really very interesting topic. The value of AI is immense. And its great Arunji, that you have highlighted the benefits positively with very nice articulation of creating heaven right here at the end. While there are many challenges, both ethical and technical, yet to be solved, AI is here to stay. And if early movers and biggies stay inspired on creating the culture that drives benefits for larger good, it will definitely play a role to make life easier, smarter and richer for billions.

  6. Thank you Prof Tiwari for the wonderful perspective on the evolution of human language and learning. It reminded me of the importance of Claude Shannon who first made the connection between Boolean Algebra and digital logic circuits – the computer language of 0’s and 1’s – which has enabled the AI Era we are now experiencing. Heaven on Earth is the promise indeed; however some believe the devil may still be an actor.

    I write this to you from India and look forward to seeing you soon!

  7. Sir, your article is very timely, and I hope the good things you mention about AI happen. But what is apparent at this point is the disadvantages of AI. There is job displacement, ethical issues about bias and privacy, security problems from hacking, and a lack of human-like creativity and empathy.

  8. Dear Sir, Thank you for an insight blog on AI. AI is definitely going to make things much more straightforward. One has to guard against the misuse of this advanced technology. For me, the last statement sums up the very purpose ofnd its the advancement in technology a apt use. THE IDEA OF AI IS NOT TO REACH HEAVEN UP THERE BUT TO CREATE ONE HERE.
    Thank you once again for an excellent and AI-simplifying blog.

  9. Dear Sir, Greetings! Thank you for sharing another masterpiece blog on AI and language. In the future, AI is going to be the best teacher and guide to humanity, especially the students in universities. I feel the role of teachers will be changed to the next level, it will not just be teaching and giving notes to the students as all the knowledge and information AI will be able to provide in a better way compared to a human teacher, the teacher’s role would be to guide the students on the right track only. Language will not be a barrier for the students to learn and understand complex theories with the help of AI. Warm Regards,

  10. AI has bridged the gap of language barrier to a great extent. The new generation are a privileged lot who can hold the outstretched hand of AI and move forward to a new world of knowledge and learning. In our culture we relate knowledge to Godliness ,hence the dream of creating heaven on earth will very soon be a reality. Thank you so much for such an inspiring blog Sir. Regards.

  11. Sir, Bhashini(भाषिणी), developed by the government, is a shining example of the good that can be done by a willing government involving people. Tens of thousands of people in India add data from their native languages daily to create open-source language datasets upon which others can build tools. There are ample opportunities for young people to learn and earn in this new field.

    सुहासिनी सुमधुर भाषिणी
    सुखदाम् वरदाम् मातरम् वन्दे मातरम्॥

  12. I loved reading your perspective on AI. While most of the world focuses on the fears and challenges, you’ve highlighted the brighter side, from which we benefit daily. Thank you for sharing!

  13. Sir, thank you for this insightful article. India has been a double-edged sword with the problem of a lesser number of skilled healthcare workers and a higher number of patients. We don’t have one doctor per thousand head of people; in the UK, there are 3, Australia 5, and China 4. AI is the only way to solve this problem. In my view, primary-level physicians must use AI in diagnosis more. There are great opportunities for developing smart Apps on mobile to enable them in this pursuit, like coughing sounds or iris images captured by the mobile phone indicating possible ailment. Thank you once again, Sir.

  14. Thank you for the thoughtful piece, Tiwari Sir. I am indeed looking forward to more advances with AI and its creation of a heaven on earth.

  15. The point is no more that you don’t know about something; the fact is, what you will do about it – who are you at the end of the day? The era of deception, falsehood, and pretensions will end soon. After dawn breaks out, even the brightest stars are seen no more.!!
    Can’t waiter this to be realised in our lifetime
    Thank you for the insightful article Prof Tiwari

  16. Dear Prof Tiwari
    Best wishes for 2024!
    Beautiful piece! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the corollary of the “tower of Babylon” in present times

  17. Well said Sir. How fast things evolve. Knowledge and learning will soon be no longer a preserve , but for any one who thirsts. And then what………

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